Greenfield schools favor ‘remote-plus’ learning

  • Greenfield School Committee Chair Amy Proietti STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/5/2020 4:02:19 PM

GREENFIELD — The School Committee has submitted to the state its three plans for reopening schools in mid-September, with the district continuing to favor what it calls a “remote-plus” model.

The remote-plus model, according to School Committee Chair Amy Proietti, has students spending most of their time learning remotely with additional in-person weekly tutoring in socially distanced small groups, or pods, and more intensive remote and in-person services for high-needs students. Everyone would be required to wear masks for in-person learning.

In addition, students who do not have access to internet at home could register to attend supervised study sessions while social distancing. That way, Proietti said, students can participate in remote learning in a safe environment. 

“School lunch will be offered on a ‘grab-‘n’-go’ basis for all students,” she said.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is requiring all school districts to come up with three plans by Aug. 10: a fully remote model, a fully in-person model and one that combines the two.

School Committee members said they believe all three of its models are good and that schools could adapt to any of them, but they unanimously endorsed the remote-plus model as the best and safest strategy at this point.

The committee has decided that grades 1 through 12 will begin Sept. 16, and has asked for a waiver from the state to allow kindergarten to begin Sept. 18 — school districts need a waiver to open later than Sept. 16.

A meeting was held this week to discuss reopening, the budget and school schedules, but all three issues were tabled. Proietti explained that the School Committee can always return to any or all of those issues, but felt as of now it has a good handle on the plans for reopening. There will be a virtual meeting Friday at 1:30 p.m. to do a “deep dive” into the budget.

She said the Greenfield Reopening Education Advisory Team, a group of more than 20 educators, parents, school staff and community members, will continue its work and make recommendations on any modifications that need to be made at any time. A survey was sent earlier this summer to parents and guardians, with some families saying they planned to home-school no matter what decision was made. The advisory team looked at different aspects of reopening, including facilities, equity and technology.

Proietti said the school district has ordered supplies for the fall and will distribute items such as paper, for instance, to students who don’t have access to them.

Among the state’s requirements as schools reopen is that if there is any in-person learning, children’s temperatures must be checked before they head to school. The School Committee and its advisory team have also taken into consideration the students, teachers and others who are immunocompromised and will need special accommodations. They are still looking at all possibilities for keeping them safe.

Proietti said there are still some concerns over the state’s power in determining whether students would go back to in-person learning and that municipalities, school districts and boards of health should make those decisions.

“This is a public health issue, and school folks are not experts on public health and we need to work in concert,” Proietti said last week. “And we’ve all seen that DESE (state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) is only kind of a poser when it comes to being an expert on any of this. Anyone who’s taken five minutes to just read a little bit of the guidelines can see that they don’t spend time in classrooms. They don’t spend time with children.”

School Committee member Katie Caron said DESE can’t force districts to operate with a plan that is less safe than the district is comfortable with. However, the state would be able to pull back and shut down an in-person plan if there were a COVID-19 outbreak or related health emergency.

“They can take away what we have but they can’t force anything on us,” Caron said. “It’s an important distinction that I think we all need to be aware of. No matter what plan we start with, it does not mean that is the plan we will be running on Oct. 31.”

The School Committee and district will wait to hear what the state has to say about reopening, but will continue to work on the details for Greenfield and will be prepared to use any of its three plans.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.

 

 




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